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Spend a few hours getting to know the nooks and crannies of Joburg, its history and personality, guided by someone in the know. Take a tour.
THE time has come to question how well you know the inner city. Even Joburg natives who believe they know each nook and cranny of their city may be surprised by what they learn about different landmarks and their association with Johannesburg’s often-controversial history.


Main Street in the Joburg CBDMain Street in the Joburg CBDPast Experiences, a local tour guide company, gives you the opportunity to travel old streets, as well as new, to reacquaint yourself with the city you live in. There will be two sets of tours taking place on Sunday, 22 May.

“The aim [is] to get as many people as possible out and about in the city,” says Jo Buitendach, the founder of Past Experiences. “We have organised a morning of fun tours aimed at locals, [which is] budget friendly, to get you out and about and into the inner city.”

It is the speed dating of tours, as attendees can choose to go on as many tours as they would like. Each is an hour long and focuses on a different aspect of “a particular area or theme or person”, according to Buitendach.

“The Johannesburg inner city and Soweto are our playground and we would love to share them with you,” Buitendach says on Past Experiences’ website. “Join us on a tour and you will experience these areas like a local. From a walk or ride on our new bus system through downtown Joburg or a taxi ride to Soweto, we do it.

“We aim to provide unique experiences that focus on the ‘African City’ and the fantastic history of Joburg, but also on the future and rejuvenation of the city.”

Mandela’s Joburg
The first set of tours on Sunday will be led by Buitendach. From 9am to 10am, people will be shown Mandela’s Joburg, where he and his contemporaries worked and carried out their resistance activities. The second tour will take a closer look at Braamfontein and its regeneration between 10.15 and 11.15am; a walk over the Nelson Mandela Bridge is included.


Nelson Mandela BridgeNelson Mandela BridgeOld Chinatown will be the tour’s itinerary between 11.30am and 12.30pm, when the early Chinese population in the city will be explored. Buitendach’s final tour will be the Ferreirasdorp-Diagonal Street area between 12.45 and 1.45pm. The traditionally African and Indian section of the city will be the focus, with a visit to the first mining camp.

One of Past Experiences’ other tour guides will lead the second set of tours, taking place concurrently. A photographic walkabout of Newtown is on the bill from 9 to 10am, so all of those who participate are urged to take their cameras.

A look at the history of the mining and financial district, as well as the rejuvenation of the area, will take place between 10.15 and 11.15am during the Main Street Meander tour. Next up, Beyers Naude Square will be the focus of the hour, as participants learn more about the history of Joburg’s first market place.

Finally, the city’s residents are invited to take a walk down Fox and Commissioner streets, on what Buitendach calls “the pretty side of town”, to look at the buildings and come to a better understanding of the area.

Tour guide
“I think [people] like that it is a positive and very personal experience with knowledgeable tour guides. People also respond so positively to exploring the inner city as it is looking fantastic,” she says.

Each tour on Sunday is R40 and departs from the Market Theatre parking lot. To book a spot in one or more of these expeditions through town, email or phone 011 678 3905. Spaces are usually limited to 25 people, so booking is essential.

Also on offer are archaeological tours to Sterkfontein and Maropeng, and Limpopo, as well as general cultural tours around Pretoria. Past Experience offers budget tours aimed at locals, and private tours for international visitors and corporations, which Buitendach says are gaining popularity.


The tour ends at the Market Theatre in NewtownThe tour ends at the Market Theatre in Newtown“Private tours can be booked any time and the budget tours happen most weekends,” she says. Prices vary according to the type of trip, but budget tours range from R40 to R150.

Buitendach developed her interest in archaeology and history during her gap year in London, where she worked at various museums. When she returned to South Africa, she studied archaeology and history at the University of the Witwatersrand.

Thereafter, she registered as an archaeologist and tour guide, for which she was trained by the Johannesburg Development Agency, and founded Past Experiences, which has been running for two years.

“I am absolutely passionate and in love with Joburg CBD – its people, history, rejuvenation, buildings and future,” she says. She does have her personal favourites, though: “My favourite buildings are the Barbican in Rissik Street and Chancellor House in Ferreirasdorp. My favourite area is Diagonal Street and Ferreirasdorp as it is a traditional African/Indian area of the city.”

To find out more about the tours on offer from Past Experiences, visit its website.

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